REED CITY — With eight seniors leading the way on the court last season, the Reed City volleyball team was able to fight to a second-place finish in the Central State Activities Association (CSAA). Now, with the 2014 season officially starting with tryouts this Wednesday, the Coyotes have their sights set on another strong showing with just two seniors on the roster.

Alison Schermerhorn and Skiler Brigham are the two seniors returning for the Coyotes and head coach Don Patterson said his team will have to rely on contributions from younger players.

“Not as much this year, in terms of seniors,” Patterson said. “We could have as few as two seniors, we could have more show up once tryouts start, but for most of the summer we’ve had two seniors, so we’ll definitely have some underclassmen.”

Schermerhorn and Hannah Price, one of those underclassmen, have stepped up in leadership roles for Patterson throughout the summer as his team captains.

“Alison and Hannah Price, a junior, are kind of my left and right hands, especially helping organize things throughout the summer,” he said. “They’ll be my captains this year and one of the biggest things for them was helping out this summer and they got it done.

“Price will play a big role for us this year,” he continued. “We have a bunch of other juniors that have been playing well and will be in the mix like Ally Yarger and Megan Donley.”

Patterson and the Coyotes have been busy this summer with open gyms and a number of camps, but have also been busy trying to adapt to playing without a lot of height on the squad.

“We’ve been focusing on ball control and serve and serve-receive,” he said. “We’re going to play a lot different than we have before because we’re a little smaller than we’re used to, but there are lots of ways to win and by the middle and end of the year I think we’ll be good.

“Playing smaller changes the defensive focus a bit,” he continued. “If you have a big blocker up front you can take away more of the court, but with smaller players your defenders have to be better and have to take better angles. We have the chance to have some really good defenders. Our serve and serve-receive has to be very good, too.”

The Coyotes will try to stay strong in the CSAA again this season, but they’ll do it in the Gold division of the new-look CSAA conference alongside of Big Rapids, Grant, Tri County, Newaygo, Chippewa Hills and Central Montcalm.

“Looking at the first year in the new conference we’ll be playing some different teams than we’re used to, but I think we’ll definitely be in the mix for the conference title,” he said. “Last year we finished second, and we’ve been in the mix pretty much every year in the recent past...We have as good a chance as anyone else.”

Besides adjusting to conference realignment, a younger team and less height, the Coyotes are also looking at lower participation this season, but Patterson said his tight-knit squad will be competitive.

“One thing that is unusual this year is that we’re anticipating smaller numbers, based on what we’ve seen at summer stuff and who we’ve talked to with some people playing other sports,” Patterson said. “We’re down a little number-wise, which could be a good thing or a bad thing. We have a small group, but they’re tight and they get along well and we’ll work hard to try to get to some of those goals.”

The Coyotes will see their first action on Friday, Aug. 22 at Ludington for tournament play.